review oddments

Around this time every year, I find myself with a surplus list of things I intended to reference on this site, but couldn’t find a way to incorporate into a previous post. I maintain a reference file that I use to jot down notes, interesting websites, and other material I plan to use in upcoming posts. After I write a post, I sometimes have extra reference material that didn’t make it into the published version. I transfer this extra material to an accessory file called oddments.txt. Over the course of a year, this accessory file accumulates quite a bit of unpublished material. To help shrink the size of my 2014 accessory file, I decided to curate a list of things I wanted to mention from oddments.txt and consolidate them here into one post.

  1. Pipe Viewer
    Pipe Viewer is a handy command line tool that provides some helpful information for monitoring long-running Unix pipelines. The tool displays a progress bar along with an estimated time to completion for a pipeline or for individual commands in a pipeline. Here’s a simple example of what Pipe Viewer looks like in action—bonus points for a unixy two letter name:

  2. Anarchy In A Jar Beer Jelly
    Combine the malty goodness of Sixpoint’s Mad Scientist #3 Ale, mix in apples, grains of paradise, and other spices, then apply to anything edible—it’s especially good with charcuterie or cheese. I’ve developed an obsession with this stuff in my post-skiing bacon, brie, and beer jelly sandwich.

  3. 404 Page Found
    This site maintains a repository of unearthed relics of the primordial web that are still alive. Remember 1993?

  4. Silo Saga
    Hugh Howey’s self-published Silo Saga was the best fiction I read this year. There are currently over 7,000 five star reviews for the first book in the series, Wool. The self-published series is about a post-apocalyptic world where people must live in an underground silo to survive.

  5. One Weird Kernel Trick
    This is an Internet treasure. I particularly like the attention to detail with the PDF links. Legit!

  6. The North Face: Base Camp Duffle Bag
    The Base Camp Duffle is the gold standard of duffle bags against which all others are judged. I’ve owned one of these for 17 years and they’re bombproof. My duffle has survived road trips on car roof racks in torrential thunderstorms, resisted ice axe punctures during climbing expeditions, and held up to being dragged across river beds carrying firewood.

  7. Beej’s Guide to Network Programming
    The best resource I’ve found for understanding Internet sockets. Everything in Unix is a file!

  8. Information Theory, Inference, and Learning Algorithms
    This book, along with Knuth’s Concrete Mathematics, are two of my favorite text books. Both books share a similar approach to learning that I find extremely effective—they teach important concepts by using real world example problems and walk the reader through an explanation of the solutions. Both books start with fairly simple problems where the concepts behind the solutions are reused later in the books to solve harder problems and reinforce learning.

  9. Handsome Atlas
    Shortly after I wrote about the kinetics of the Boston Marathon and referenced Henry Gannett’s bumps chart from the U.S. Statistical Atlas, a reader shared a link to the Handsome Atlas Project. Jonathan Soma took the archive of the Statistical Atlases from the Library of Congress website and made it accessible by redesigning the user interface. Compare this to the Handsome Atlas.

  10. Travel Data Cable
    I received one of these cables as a gift and I’ve used it so much that it ended up in my EDC. The cable is compact and allows for impromptu iPhone charges or photo transfers. There are a lot of retractable cables like this that require carrying separate adapter dinguses, but I like my cables to be simple—no moving parts or additional pieces to lose.

  11. Lagavulin 16
    There are a lot of superb single malts, but only a rare few are inexpensive and also easy to find in most stores. Lagavulin 16 is one such whisky. It’s well balanced with interesting flavor notes of iodine, leather, earl gray tea, and seaweed. The perfect companion to a winter fire. Delightful.

  12. tmux Resurrect
    I separate my individual computer projects into individual tmux session in my terminal emulator to keep my work spaces organized. Unfortunately, rebooting the system terminates these work spaces and forces me to reorganize my layouts after every system reboot. tmux Resurrect solves this problem by persistent tmux sessions across system reboots so that sessions are preserved.

  13. Reusable Aeropress Disk
    Coffee level up—a stainless steel filter that eliminates the need to continuously buy bleached paper filters for the Aeropress.

  14. Ranger
    Ranger is a tool I’ve really grown to like. It’s a file manager with vi key bindings, similar to Midnight Commander. It’s immediately intuitive to use for anyone who uses vim. With Ranger, file system navigation is wicked fast.

  15. Bertin’s Semiology of Graphics
    Bertin’s influence on information design is extensive. SOG is a very insightful read that codifies many of his main ideas into one book. An over-arching theme of SOG is that graphics should have a defined lingua franca built up from simple visual components that work together with human perception to maximum the overall effectiveness of the visualization. His influence on his successors, especially Cleveland, is especially clear.

  16. Merkur Heavy-duty Double Edge Razor
    A few years ago, I grew tired of buying expensive replacement razor blade cartridges and switched to a simple double edge razor with Feather blades. The double edge razor works well and is about 20x cheaper—100 of the expensive replacement blades costs ~$415, while 100 high-quality Feather blades costs about ~$20.

  17. Below The Boat
    This is a wonderfully creative art project—wood carved bathymetric charts of notable bodies of water.

  18. Rapidfire Chimney Starter
    I use to hate the laborious process of lighting charcoal for grilling, but then a friend recommended I purchase a chimney starter. I was dubious at first, but they work incredibly well and are inexpensive. The Rapidfire makes getting hot coals ready for grilling fast and simple, even in windy conditions.

  19. Recent Menu
    Recent Menu is a menubar app that I’ve come to use every day. It keeps track of recently accessed files and folders on your Mac for quick retrieval. I find it especially useful for finding things that I’ve been working on over the course of a few days, but can’t remember the name of the thing I’m looking for.

  20. Bibimbap
    I’ve got a real weakness for Korean food, especially Bibimbap. I’ve tried many recipes and this one is the best—highly recommended.

  21. OSX Hacks for Yosemite
    This Gist is an essential resource for modifying Yosemite so that it’s usable. It includes such desiderata as:
    ✔ Save to disk, rather than iCloud, by default
    ✔ Show hidden files in Finder by default
    ✔ Don’t send search queries to Apple
    ✔ Remove duplicates in the ‘Open With’ menu
    et cetera

  22. Quicktime to GIF
    I often need to embed various screen recordings into presentation software like Google Slides, Keynote, or PowerPoint. GIF images are one of the only formats that works reliably across these applications. Converting from QuickTime Movie to GIF is not straightforward. This Gist shows how to make the conversion using ffmpeg and gificle.

  23. Snapseed
    Despite owning both Photoshop and Lightroom, Snapseed is the app I reach for most when I need to do image editing. The image effects are intuitive to use and produce wonderful images. The app also provides an essential toggle features that allows you to quickly switch back-and-forth between edits to see how photo manipulations will affect the image you are working with. ++.

  24. Sorel 1964 Premium T
    The Sorel Premium T is the warmest and most comfortable winter boot I’ve ever owned. Its design is modeled after the venerable Maine Hunting Shoe, but updated with contemporary materials. The Premium T is waterproof and seam-sealed with a felt inner boot that keeps my feet comfortable when slogging through slush at 40°F or splitting firewood at -20°F.

  25. Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid
    This is the best non-fiction book I’ve read in quite a while. It’s a long book, but well worth reading. Hofstadter’s thesis is ostensibly about complexity organization and how it manifests in various facets of music, painting, geometry, and logic—highly recommended.